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Mens Basketball Update

From David Fehr:

I could have predicted the 7-2 start to our season but thought the “2” would have been road losses to Wesleyan and Springfield. We won both of those but opened the season with really hideous home losses to Southern VT and SUNY-Oneonta.

The schedule is screwy. Only 10 home games; four of the ten in the first 11 days of the season but then, following the MCLA game on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Ephs are not at home for 45 days until Trinity and Amherst on January 9 & 10. Can’t remember a gap any where near that long. The consolation (for those of us willing to drive a little) was that after Thanksgiving we played three games in four nights in the Albany area. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – lots of Big Macs on NY Route 7. And if you want to spend a week after Christmas in Eastern Mass., we play out there three times in six days.

I termed the season-opening losses “hideous.” 35% shooting and 21 turnovers v. S. VT and v. Oneonta, 9-for-33 3-point shooting, missing about 10 layups and being out rebounded by 12. We had a good overtime win at Wesleyan despite being badly beaten (again) on the glass because Daniel Wohl played 44 minutes and had a 25-14 double-double as he, Greenman and Rooke-Ley all were over 20. I missed the Springfield game and couldn’t understand how we won (shot just 33% and were outrebounded by 53-38). Then I saw it: Ephs made 8 more 3s than the Pride and we had just 4 turnovers. Shades of 2003 Final Four.

The big news on the court has been senior Hayden Rooke-Ley. He’s getting national recognition (nicely covered on the Williams’ website): The U.S. Basketball Writers Association is naming, for the first time, a D3 National Player of the Week and the first man ever named was our Hayden. The NCAA basketball website did a profile on Hayden as well after he set a new Division 3 record by opening the year by making 67 consecutive free throws (and, as he made his last 11 last year, 78 in a row over two seasons). Hayden is 97.2% from the line in 9 games. He’s not the only Eph who can make them: The team, at 85.0%, is second in the country (Wheaton [IL] is 86.6%).

But Hayden also shoots the three ball. Our first win of the season was over a really, really bad Johnson State (VT) team (Williams by 35). Rooke–Ley took 15 shots, all from beyond the arc in the corner. He made 12 to set a new Williams record. He seemed to be unguarded on all 15. Hayden said (he was in a class I audited) “They must have seen my stat line from the Oneonta game [a woeful 0-9] and decided to leave me alone.”

But he really went nuts at RPI, scoring 31 points in the first half and 43 for the game. I charted his shooting: He opened the game making his first five shots, 2 driving layups and then 3 3-pointers. A missed layup was followed by a made 3, a missed 3, 4 straight made 3s, a missed 3 and a made 3 before the buzzer. 31 on 11-14 shooting. He “cooled off” in the second half with “just” 12 points but the game had already been decided.

It’s hard to know how good this team is. They have no real inside presence and I long for the Sheehy/Paulsen teams that frequently were among the nation’s best in rebounding margin (see attached chart). Their defense is just so-so. Still, if the opposition keeps fouling, we’ll make those free throws. If we can take care of the ball, our overall shooting – not as good as in the most recent seasons but still pretty darn good — will win quite a few games. Against Amherst? Probably not. Away games in NESCAC? I worry. The Ephs seem to have calmed down following the bad start and Coach App’s substitution patterns have become less frantic. Those of you who predicted 5-to-7 losses are probably still in the hunt for the Big Prize.

I’ll send another update around the end of January; by then we should know what we have and whether we have a legitimate shot at the NESCAC tournament.

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